Panva Gas Holdings has signed two agreements that will see it investing in the provinces of Liaoning and Heilongjiang. A spokeswoman for the mainland gas supplier said yesterday the firm had agreed to buy 61 per cent of state-owned Qiqihar Gas in Heilongjiang for 77 million yuan while the second deal would pave the way for the purchase of a stake in a gas project in Anshan, Liaoning. The deals will help the company expand deeper into northern China from its markets in Jilin and Harbin. 'The Qiqihar gas market is large, with a high population density and economic growth potential,' the spokeswoman said. 'The penetration rate of Qiqihar Gas remains low compared with a connectable population of about 5.6 million. This means strong growth potential.' Panva became the controlling shareholder of Qiqihar Gas. The rest of the interest was held by the authorities of Qiqihar, she said. Qiqihar Gas, which holds a franchise to supply natural gas in the city for the next 30 years, brings the number of Panva's gas projects in the mainland to 32. The Qiqihar project would contribute to Panva's bottom line as soon as early next year, the spokeswoman said. The project's internal rate of return also met the firm's expectation of more than 15 per cent. Panva, which is to reveal today its earnings for the three months to September, was expected to report a 12 per cent rise in net profit to $56 million, according to JP Morgan. A Thomson First Call poll forecast Panva's full-year profit would grow 16.35 per cent to $243.26 million this year. JP Morgan was concerned that the company's recent acquisition of a 48 per cent stake in Changchun Gas for 379 million yuan was expensive even though the Jilin-based A-share company was profitable.